Of all the restaurants in Exmouth Market, Caravan has the best location – a corner spot with huge windows and alfresco tables ample enough to fit a football team on. Inside is prime people-watching territory, which is convenient because the coffee at this branch is first rate (as are the espresso martinis).
The cooking, which swerves between small plates, salads and sides, was a mixed bag. A slab of spinach and manouri bourek was triumphant, scattered liberally with chewy fried chickpea sprouts and lemon rind slivers: the kind of dish you insist you could do yourself but would fail at every time. The red coconut curry with grilled sea bass was lovely, although it wouldn’t suffice as a standalone main (despite being £17.50). Spiced cauliflower lacked the promised piquancy, while a very bland plate of puy lentils, greens, yoghurt and hazelnuts didn’t exactly live up to Caravan’s ‘well-travelled’ USP. And my side order of spring greens was so well-travelled it never arrived, regardless of our gentle queries to the waitress, who blamed the chef.
That being said, the desserts – a rich yuzu posset with inky blackcurrants and a divine baked apricot rye tart with white chocolate sorbet – were taken off the bill and apologies from the manager were profuse. With an intimate atmosphere and enough decent veggie dishes to turn a carnivore, there’s a lot to like here, but next time, I’ll probably stick to coffee and cake.